Forget everything you’ve been taught about dieting. Renowned endocrinologist and Harvard University obesity expert Dr. David Ludwig, MD, PhD explains in his new book, Always Hungry?, why traditional diets don’t work
You’re eating too much after your workout
Hundreds of studies have asked the question, is exercise the answer to weight loss? These studies include every imaginable approach of increasing physical activity and involve thousands of participants. The same conclusion is found in each study; some people lose a few pounds, others gain a few pounds, but most experience no meaningful weight change at all. Physical activity has many benefits such as enhancing motivation to eat well and increasing muscle mass, but lowering body weight isn’t usually one of them.
The reason exercise does not produce much weight loss is due to the fact that physical activity makes us hungrier, so we compensate by eating more. Unfortunately consuming calories is much easier than burning calories. You may go for a 30 minute jog and burn 200 hundred calories only to replace those 200 hundred calories with an energy drink a minute later.
The reason exercise does not produce much weight loss is due to the fact that physical activity makes us hungrier, so we compensate by eating more.
There is also indication that the more active we are at one time, the less active we are at a later time. In one study, thirty-seven adolescents with obesity engaged in varying levels of physical activity (high intensity, low intensity or rest) on three separate mornings. As anticipated, the adolescents burned more calories during exercise than when at rest. But in the afternoon calorie expenditure significantly decreased following these high intensity exercises. Regardless of how much the teens exercised, the total calories burned throughout the day remained the same.
TRY THIS: The ‘Passeggiata’
The passeggiata is an Italian word for a kind of walk. It is the habit of taking multiple walks during the day to get you up and away from your desk or couch. These walks help you sleep better, support healthy digestion and insulin action. No matter how fit you are the passeggiata is a pleasurable, easy and stress-relieving activity.
2. Your body has a natural ‘set point’
One of Dr. Ludwig’s first professional research studies was conducted on mice in order to uncover the complexity of the systems that control body weight. The results he found were fascinating. If the mouse fasted for a few days it lost weight as expected. But when finally given access to food, they ate until all their lost weight was regained. The opposite was also true. Force-feeding the mouse caused weight gain, but afterward the mouse would avoid food until its weight returned to normal.
Based on this experiment, there is evidence that an animal’s body knows what weight it wants to be. This supports the idea that we, as humans, have a natural tendency to alter our food intakes to reach an internal ‘set point’. Similar to the way a thermostat maintains the temperature of a room.
We, as humans, have a natural tendency to alter our food intakes to reach an internal set point.
When you make a change in your behavior your internal biology fights back. For insistence, when you restrict your food intake your body responsed with increased hunger. For long-term weight management the idea is to change your biology in order to cause a natural behavioral adaptation.
TRY THIS: Effective long term weight management
Try focusing on what you’re eating rather than the calorie content. The biological effects of food make all the difference in feeling hungry or satisfied, having low or high energy levels, gaining or losing weight and a life of good health or chronic disease.
3. Your breakfast is slacking
In the words of Dr. Ludwig, “Not all breakfasts are created equal”. In a study published in the journal, Pediatrics, Twelve adolescent boys were given three different breakfasts on three separate occasions. Each breakfast had the same number of calories, but varied in the type and amount of carbohydrate.
Meals with the same calories can produce dramatically different outcomes later on.
The first breakfast consisted of instant oatmeal, a highly processed carbohydrate. The second was a minimally processed carbohydrate, steel-cut oatmeal. The third breakfast, a vegetable omelette with fruit, included more protein and fat, less carbohydrate and no grain products.
At lunch the teens were allowed to eat as little or as much as they wanted from large platters of bread, bagels, cold cuts, cookies and fruits. Participants ate a significantly greater amount following the breakfast of instant oatmeal (1,400 calories) then compared to the steel-cut oats (900 calories) and omelet with fruit (750 calories). This is a 650 calorie difference following meals with the same number of calories, but difference forms. Thus, supporting the idea that meals with the same calories can produce dramatically different outcomes later on.
TRY THIS: Peanut Butter Banana Power Shake
Dr. Ludwig’s book, Always Hungry?, includes health approved recipes such as the classic combination of peanut butter and banana that is sure to keep you satisfied all morning. This shake not only has just the right amount of nutrients, but also an unexpected dash of nutmeg that adds to this delicious breakfast option.
All you have to do is blend together 1 banana (fresh or frozen), 2 to 3 tablespoons of no-sugar added peanut butter, 1 cup unsweetened soy or almond milk, 2½ tablespoons whey protein powder and a dash of ground nutmeg.
4. You’re following a low-calorie diet
Most weight loss recommendations support the simple notion that “a calorie is a calorie”. But the reality is consuming fewer calories is not what your body needs and will not lead to successful weight loss.
Since the 1970s reducing calorie consumption, in the hopes of achieving weight loss, has failed. When we become extremely hungry we are unable to concentrate on anything besides food and become increasingly weak, eventually surrendering to our hunger. If this vicious cycle occurs frequently it causes our metabolism to slow down making weight loss nearly impossible.
The reality is consuming fewer calories is not what your body needs and will not lead to successful weight loss.
Obesity rates are at a historic high with the government and food industries encouraging counting calories with inventions like the “100 calorie snack packs”. In reality, these so called “healthy alternatives” and “low-fat” candy, cookies and salad dressings typically contain more sugar and less nutrients than the original versions.
TRY THIS: Benefits of calorie dense foods
Instead of counting calories think of how the food will effect your body. Recent studies show that highly processed carbohydrates adversely affect metabolism and body weight in ways beyond calorie content, while nuts, olive oil and dark chocolate (some of the most calorie-dense foods in existence) appear to prevent obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
5. Artificial sweeteners are not as innocent as they seem
Some artificial sweeteners contain saccharin as a substitute for sugar and include no fructose or glucose. Although artificial sweeteners have relatively no calories, they still have an effect on the body. There are synthetic chemicals in artificial sweeteners that stimulate the taste receptors for sweetness a thousand times more powerfully than sugar does. This causes damaging effects on ones diet.
There are synthetic chemicals in artificial sweeteners that stimulate the taste receptors for sweetness a thousand times more powerfully than sugar does.
Dr. Ludwig has found that people who regularly consume artificial sweeteners may find naturally sweet foods, like fruit, unappealing and unsweet foods, like vegetables, intolerable. Artificial sweeteners are also found to stimulate hunger by causing insulin secretion and driving calories into fat cells.
People who regularly consume artificial sweeteners may find naturally sweet foods, like fruit, unappealing and unsweet foods, like vegetables, intolerable.
TRY THIS: Sweet Tooth Remedy
The best way to satisfy your desire for sweetness is with naturally fresh fruit. When you do use added sweetener, try pure maple syrup or honey instead of table sugar when possible. These less-refined sweeteners contain nutrients and have a stronger flavor so you do not need to use as much. Also, if you give up inorganically sweetened stuff, you may find fresh seasonal fruit actually tastes better.
6. Cravings are taking over your life
When the bloodstream is low on calories, the brain triggers an alarm system that leads to hunger and causes cravings. We specifically crave highly processed carbohydrates like chips, cookies, candy and cake because they make us feel better within moments.
The issue is that they also make us feel worse for hours afterward, triggering an addictive cycle. Highly processed carbohydrates are similar to abusive drugs in the sense that the fast absorption rates of both increase addictiveness.
By eliminating highly processed carbohydrates from your diet you may find your food-related behavioral problems suddenly improve.
No matter what our psychological state is, highly processed carbohydrates set the stage for a binge. By eliminating highly processed carbohydrates from your diet you may find your food-related behavioral problems suddenly improve.
TRY THIS: Satisfy your tastebuds
If your looking for a savory snack that will leave you feeling full and satisfied try Dr. Ludwig’s herb-roasted chickpeas from his book, Always Hungry?. Chickpeas have lots of satisfying protein and taste great with extra-virgin olive oil and parmesan.
7. You’re misunderstanding the use of salt
Most processed foods have a tremendous amount of salt that help make them taste good. Eliminating these highly processed foods naturally lowers salt consumption, but Dr. Ludwig asks the question, “When it comes to salt, is less always more?”.
An excessive restriction of salt is found to have negative effects. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine followed one hundred thousand people for four years. Individuals with sodium intakes ranging from 3 to 6 grams, which is well above the recommended dosage, had the lowest risk for major cardiovascular disease or death.
Of course these findings must be interpreted cautiously, the increased risk might reflect preexisting disease rather than effects of sodium. However, it is known that a reduction of sodium from average to low levels has a negative effect on blood pressure and may even cause metabolic problems. While a diet of fast-food and junk-food provides too much salt and is not good for heart health.
TRY THIS: Other ways to control blood pressure
A few potentially more effective ways to control your blood pressure may be to lower your intake of added sugars along with other highly processed carbohydrates, reduce your stress level, and increase your physical activity. These are all components of Dr. Ludwig’s Always Hungry Solution, which can be found in his book, Always Hungry?.
David Ludwig, MD, PhD is a practicing endocrinologist and researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and professor of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. Described as an ‘obesity warrior’ by TIME magazine, Dr. Ludwig has been featured in the New York Times and on NPR, ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN, among others.